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Best Of 2021: Employee Benefits Blog Posts and Downloads

David Rook

Thousands of companies turned to JP Griffin Group for guidance on employee benefits topics in 2021. With nearly a half-million blog post views and tens of thousands of content downloads, here is some of our most popular content for the calendar year.


Does Healthcare Consumerism Even Have A Chance?

It’s difficult to become more informed consumers of healthcare when large swaths of that very system seem to be working against us at every turn. Do consumers even have a chance?

2022 IRS Contribution Limits for HSA, HDHP, FSA, 401(k)

A consolidated list of 2022 IRS contribution limits for tax-advantaged employee benefits accounts such as HSAs, FSAs, 401(k)s, QSEHRA, transportation, and adoption benefits.

What's the Difference Between Telemedicine, Telehealth, and Telecare?

It's important to understand the differences between telemedicine, telehealth, telecare, virtual medicine, virtual health, and virtual care.

Vendor Contracts – Beware of These Five Pitfalls in Employee Benefits Agreements

Employers should carefully review the provisions of their employee benefits vendor contracts. Here's a list of common provisions requiring special attention.

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Topics: Employee Communications

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Budgeting for Benefits: Sage Advice for Cost-Conscious Employees

David Rook

Editor's note: We'd like to thank Ann Lloyd of StudentSavingsGuide.com for collaborating with us on this week's blog post.

Employee benefit offerings can be powerful motivational tools. They can help steer workers to new opportunities or drive loyalty to current organizations.  This has never been more true than in today’s hypercompetitive job market.

But as we discussed recently, offering robust and generous benefit programs isn’t enough. Employers must communicate these programs clearly and concisely since research shows that confusing and complex benefit programs can be stress-inducing - and a real turn-off to current employees and future talent prospects.

One of the main issues weighing heavily on workers, particularly those who are younger and/or in low-wage jobs, is that of money. Benefits, after all, can be quite expensive, depending on how generous or stingy an employer chooses to be.

Here are some best practices for employers to use when coaching more cost-conscious employees through the benefits enrollment process.

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Topics: Employee Communications

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2022 IRS Contribution Limits For Tax-Advantaged Employee Benefit Programs (Consolidated)

Jeff Griffin

The IRS has finally announced adjustments to 2022 contribution limits on various tax-advantaged health and dependent care spending accounts, retirement plans, and other employee benefits such as adoption assistance and transportation benefits. Many of these contribution limits, though not all, are indexed to cost-of-living adjustments.

Together, these combined announcements by the IRS detail 2022 adjusted limits to the amounts employees can tuck away pretax into Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), transportation benefits, and retirement plans such as 401(k)s.

While IRS limits for HSAs and HDHPs are required, by law, to be announced by June 1st, limits for these other pretax savings vehicles always seem to come so late in the year that many employers have already completed their employee benefits open enrollments.

Employers who have already completed open enrollment for 2022 have two choices when it comes to communicating these updates; 1) they can do nothing, since there isn't an obligation to make the maximum election amounts available to employees, or 2) they can reopen the enrollment process and let employees who want to increase their elections do so before December 31st, for calendar year plans.

What follows is a summary of the new IRS limits;

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Topics: Compliance, Employee Communications, HSAs, Retirement Planning, HDHPs, FSAs

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Ten Reasons to Migrate to Digital Communications This Open Enrollment Season

David Rook

Employers continue to migrate to digital employee benefits communications, most especially during this Q4 open enrollment season. Younger and more digitally savvy workers have especially welcomed this transition.

This flight to digital has no doubt been hastened by the continuation of work-from-home policies and the unwelcome return of a year-end slowdown in delivery services at the US Postal Service.

No matter the cause, employers who embrace digital communications as part of an omnichannel employee benefits marketing campaign instantly recognize the benefits of these advanced marketing solutions.

For the past several years, JP Griffin Group has utilized several digital marketing solutions. Still, two are particularly noteworthy -  our interactive benefit enrollment guides and our mobile wallet cards.  Both have substantially improved our marketing efforts and have earned us many accolades.

Here are ten improvements we've noted during our migration to digital.

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Topics: Employee Communications

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[Complex Health Benefits] The Impact on Employee Productivity & Well-Being

David Rook

While healthcare complexity is nothing new, a 2021 study from Quantum Health underscores the significant, negative effects on program participants and the employers who fund these complex group medical employee benefit programs.

One of the clearest takeaways from the research is that consumers continue to struggle with healthcare complexity. The key challenges consumers face revolve around understanding their coverage levels, making use of their benefits, finding providers, and understanding their insurance claims or bills.

Furthermore, healthcare literacy has been shown to directly correlate with health status, where states with higher rates of health literacy typically have lower rates of chronic conditions and lower overall healthcare costs.

These health literacy challenges can result in uninformed decisions and low participation and engagement in employer-sponsored offerings, hampering the desired effect of keeping employees healthy and productive.

These challenges are amplified when companies constantly change their benefits program, medical carrier, and/or the structure of the medical plans (jumping from PPOs to HMOs, from Copays to HDHPs, and from HRAs to HSAs, for example). These changes cause an increased amount of angst and confusion among employees.

Because change is often inevitable, it’s important that employers consider the findings of this research to reevaluate their employee benefits programs and communication plans, all in an effort to help facilitate employee adoption, productivity, and well-being.

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Topics: Employee Communications, Plan Design, Culture, Employee Productivity

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[Employer Survey Results] COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates, Testing Plans, and Premium Surcharges

Jeff Griffin

From Texas to Florida to Montana, state Governors and legislators are trying to get ahead of the federal government's final drafting of vaccine mandates for large employers.

Through executive orders banning these mandates and pleas to state legislatures to pass more enduring laws, several states are staged for a showdown with the federal government. Nevertheless, while this face-off is headed to the courts for resolution, several large employers are already weighing in.

Both Southwest Airlines and American Airlines have already stated they will proceed with the vaccination mandates. The two Texas-based carriers believe the federal mandate supersedes Republican Governor Greg Abbott's barring of COVID-19 vaccine mandates by any entity, including private employers.

So how will Arizona employers respond? We posed that question to over 250 Arizona employers. Here are the results.

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White House Announces Vaccination Requirements for Large and Mid-Size Employers

Jeff Griffin

Nearly 100 million workers, or two-thirds of the U.S. workforce, will be impacted by new vaccine requirements announced by President Biden yesterday. 

Prompted by a surge in COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths - most especially among the unvaccinated - the requirement stipulates that employers with 100 or more employees require their workforces to be vaccinated or undergo weekly Covid-19 testing.

While it’s expected to be challenged in the courts, this new requirement is part of a six-point initiative the White House laid out yesterday to boost vaccinations, increase access to testing, and broaden the availability of Covid-19 treatments.

Final details of the plan will come by way of an "emergency temporary standard" issued in the next few weeks by the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Businesses that don’t comply may face fines of up to $14,000 per violation. 

Per yesterday’s announcement, workers will be considered vaccinated if they receive a single Johnson & Johnson dose or two doses of the vaccines from Moderna or Pfizer. It’s unclear how a booster shot might play into things if/when approved by federal regulators.

Here are additional details of the plan.

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Topics: COVID-19

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Employer Vaccination Mandates and Medical Premium Surcharges

Jeff Griffin

Many employers are struggling to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates among their workforce, concerned not only about the safety of the workforce but also the costs of COVID-19 treatment that could be avoided through vaccination.

Some, like Delta Airlines, are turning to higher premium costs, or a surcharge, for any group health plan participants who remain unvaccinated. This decision by Delta, taken once an FDA-approved vaccine came on the market, should by no means be interpreted as a full-throated endorsement of this action. In fact, it’s quite likely that Delta’s decision will be tested in the courts.

Challenges are likely to come in three areas: wellness positioning, surcharge amounts, and possible discrimination. Nevertheless, Delta’s decision has prompted some employers to consider doing something similar.

Here are issues employers need to consider if they decide to take similar action.

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Topics: Compliance, Cost Containment, wellness, COVID-19

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Shopping for Healthcare Services - 8 More Ways to Save Through Pricing Transparency

Jeff Griffin

As employee benefits consultants, we take our responsibility seriously to educate employers and employees on resources available to help reduce employee benefits program costs and out-of-pocket healthcare expenses.

This is especially true for those enrolled in High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs), but even for those who aren’t. For without any effort, as a collective, to become more price-conscious consumers, healthcare providers will have no reason to reign things in.

In a recent blog, we discussed how consumers can save on prescription medications, including comparison shopping, manufacturer rebates and discounts, drug substitution, pill splitting, bulk buying, mail-order, and more.

As a complement to that blog post, today we’ll discuss various ways consumers can save on healthcare services and procedures. After all, when combined, hospitals and physician/clinical services account for 48% of healthcare expenses.

With nearly half of medical expenses centered around these areas, it makes sense for healthcare consumers to focus on these cost centers as target-rich environments for possible savings.

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Topics: Cost Containment, Consumer Driven Healthcare

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8 Ways Employers and Employees Can Save On Prescription Medications

Jeff Griffin

With over half of today's workforce enrolled in high-deductible health plans (51%), a majority of insured individuals are now on the hook for deductibles of at least $1,400. In addition, those with family coverage are responsible for at least $2,800.

While these higher deductibles are offset by cheaper monthly medical premiums and often by employer contributions to Health Savings Accounts (HSA), HDHP plans are nevertheless structured in such a way as to promote heightened "healthcare consumerism."

Judging by the sticker shock most consumers experience the first time they pay for medical services or prescription drugs without a copay, this heightened awareness of the "true cost of care" seems to be making an impact. As a result, consumers are indeed becoming more proactive about shopping for services and comparing prices, just as they would for any other consumer good.

Many employers, especially those that are self-funded, encourage this type of behavior since it can help them control costs and ultimately save significant dollars for both the company and its employees. (Employers with fully funded medical plans also have plenty of reasons to control their medical claims, though the potential savings often aren't recognized as immediately.)

And while consumers seem to have a love/hate relationship with HDHPs, many of those who take the time to fully calculate the total out-of-pocket cost of medical coverage and care realize that HDHPs, even with higher deductibles, can often save them money.

This isn't to say that HDHPs are for everyone, and if a company isn't helping its workforce adequately prepare for this change in consumer behavior, they are setting themselves up for failure.

Since we wouldn't want that to happen, here are eight suggestions to offer your workforce to help them save money on prescription drugs. In a future post, we'll offer tips on how to save money on common medical procedures.

Please share this information with your workforce. In doing so, you'll be helping them to become better consumers of healthcare and more satisfied enrollees in high deductible health plans.

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Topics: Cost Containment, Prescription Drugs

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